Angels take a page out of the spring training playbook to shore up defense.

It looked like spring training in August.

The Angels gathered on the Angel Stadium infield for a short team meeting around 2:45 p.m. Wednesday. When that was done, players broke off to their separate positions and proceeded to perform a Cactus League staple: Pitchers’ fielding practice (PFP) drills. For the next half-hour, each pitcher peeled off from the pack standing along the third-base line, jogged to the mound, and practiced pickoff throws to each base, fielded bunts, and covered first base on ground balls to the right side.

Kevin Jepsen said it was the first time he’d done PFP drills in August in five full seasons with the Angels.
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Angels’ Sean Burnett will pitch tomorrow for Inland Empire; Kevin Jepsen could follow.

Angels left-hander Sean Burnett is scheduled to pitch an inning tomorrow for Single-A Inland Empire, his first rehabilitation assignment since going on the disabled list with tightness in his left forearm.

Burnett hasn’t pitched since April 26.

Kevin Jepsen hasn’t been scheduled to pitch a rehab game yet, but “he’s going to be close to a rehab game this weekend too, if not this weekend then early next week,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Jepsen has been sidelined since April 12 with a strained right shoulder.

Ryan Madson is taking a pause in his rehabilitation schedule. The right-hander threw an inning four days ago for Single-A Inland Empire and was supposed to go to to Triple-A Salt Lake on his next assignment. That might not happen now, though his next outing will be a rehab assignment somewhere.

“He was going really hard for a week,” Scioscia said. Madson is “just trying to catch his breath and recover.”

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Kevin Jepsen, Sean Burnett could return next week.

The Angels expect to get relievers Sean Burnett and Kevin Jepsen back next week after both completed bullpen sessions Thursday at Angel Stadium.

Burnett, who’s been out since April 26 with stiffness in his left (throwing) forearm, is expected to pitch on a rehabilitation assignment this weekend, then return to the Angels as early as Tuesday for a home game against the Seattle Mariners. The Angels do not play Monday.

Jepsen, out since April 12 with a strained right shoulder, is also expected to head out for a rehab assignment but could need more than one appearance.

“Kevin’s been out a little longer, so it depends on how he does and how he responds,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “Sean Burnett’s been out three weeks (as of Friday). It’s not that excessive, so hopefully he’ll be able to get away with just a little tuneup.”
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Kevin Jepsen resumes throwing, aims to travel with Angels next week.

Kevin JepsenKevin Jepsen played catch for the first time since going on the disabled list April 13 with a strained right shoulder. The right-hander said he threw from up to 75 feet for seven minutes and didn’t have to cut the session short.

However, there’s still no timetable for his return.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a very long time,” he said. “The strength is there, as far as shoulder and arm strength. I just have to build it back up.”

As long as he doesn’t experience a setback, Jepsen said he’ll travel with the team to Houston next week.

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Daily Distractions: Fishing for answers in Salt Lake.

Mark Trumbo

Mark Trumbo’s power is unquestioned. Who can save the Angels’ sinking ship remains to be seen. (Keith Birmingham/Staff Photographer)

Many comparisons have been made between the 2013 Angels and the 2012 Angels, with both teams beginning the season with high expectations and underachieving badly in the first month. Here’s another point to consider: The Angels’ answer a year ago didn’t come from their major-league ranks.

Rather, it came from Triple-A Salt Lake in the form of Mike Trout. Trout was batting .403/.467/1.091 when he bid the Pacific Coast League adieu, likely for a long time. The biggest problem facing the Angels now is health, with Ryan Madson, Kevin Jepsen, Mark Lowe, Sean Burnett and Jered Weaver forming a potent disabled list. If the five are healthy, 2013 is a different story already.

Since they’re not, it’s tempting – but disappointing – to peek at who’s waiting in the wings at Triple-A. There is no Mike Trout.

If you’re looking for pitching help, the Bees’ top five starters are 6-12 with a 6.43 earned-run average. That doesn’t include recent signee Kip Wells, who allowed two runs in seven innings in his debut Sunday. And it’s not as if the Angels aren’t already auditioning arms — they’ve used 18 pitchers already this season with a 19th, Ryan Brasier, on the 25-man roster waiting to make his debut. No major-league team has used more than 19 pitchers this season.

As position players go, Luis Jimenez has been a nice lift in the lineup and on the field since being recalled. But a number-nine hitter can only do so much; his three singles in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position (.273, two RBIs) are sadly above average for this team (.225).

Bill Hall and Matt Young, two veterans who vied for major-league jobs in spring training, are hitting .206 and .241, respectively. Brad Hawpe is batting .237 with one home run to show for his first 38 at-bats.

So it’s probably not a question of who is ready to step up from Triple-A. It’s who will start pitching, who will start hitting, and who is available on the trade market?

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Kevin Jepsen, Ryan Madson and Erick Aybar give Angels a ‘pretty good team’ at extended spring training.

Kevin Jepsen, Erick Aybar and Ryan Madson are heading to Tempe, Arizona today to continue their rehab at extended spring training.

“Got a pretty good team there, sure,” manager Mike Scioscia said.

In each case, that’s a good sign for the Angels, but the timetable is different for each player’s recovery.
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Postgame thoughts: A’s 9, Angels 5

Sean Burnett was not dealing with a blister, in his mind or on the middle finger of his left hand.

Mike Scioscia seemed to disagree when he left right-hander Kevin Jepsen in to face A’s lefties John Jaso and Brandon Moss in the seventh inning with the southpaw Burnett available out of the bullpen. “Jeppy was the guy to get out of that inning,” Scioscia said, before mentioning Burnett’s blister.

Burnett said that there was no blister. Ever.

“It was more my nail came out of the bed” three days ago in Texas, he said. “It was a one-day thing. It happens all the time with my breaking ball … I was 100 percent.”

Burnett pitched Tuesday. He seemed healthy. He faced four batters in a scoreless eighth inning. Scioscia simply chose to save Burnett for the start of the eighth inning rather than the two-on, two-out situation in the seventh, citing the blister. It proved to be the wrong call.

Whether you attribute the Angels’ 9-5 loss to the Oakland A’s on Tuesday to Scioscia leaving in Jepsen too long, or to Jepsen for allowing two homers in the seventh inning, may be a matter of degrees. Six of one, half a dozen of another, there are still issues in the Angels bullpen. Right?

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What will the Angels’ bullpen look like April 1?

David Carpenter

David Carpenter could be on the bubble for one of the Angels’ final bullpen jobs … or not. (Getty Images)

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said his pitching staff “will have a more situational look in the bullpen” when the regular season begins. It’s not hard to figure out what that means, as there are 15 pitchers currently in camp and 12 will start the season on the active roster.

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Angels 16, Dodgers 8: Postgame thoughts.

Josh Hamilton

Angels right fielder Josh Hamilton watches his two-run home run in the first inning of a spring baseball game against the Dodgers at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Friday, March 1, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona. The Angels won 16-8. (Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News)

It took three and a half hours, but it happened: The Angels won a game.

They scored in mind-numbing fashion, piling on former Angel Matt Palmer (two-thirds of an inning, seven runs) and former Mariner Sean White (two-thirds of an inning, five runs) for 11 unearned runs on four Dodger errors.

The quality of play didn’t make the game come alive, but a standing-room only crowd of 6,744 did. They got their money’s worth. Jered Weaver made his long-awaited debut and a patient Josh Hamilton belted his first home run. And the Angels won.

The bullet points:

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Daily Distractions: Angels’ bullpen injury watch becomes a full-time thing.

Ryan Madson was seen throwing off flat ground today in Tempe, but manager Mike Scioscia told reporters that the Angels’ presumptive closer still has no timetable to get back on a mound.

That’s essentially the status quo. Madson was dealing with soreness and inflammation in his right elbow last week. An MRI came back negative but his throwing program was put on hold. Opening day looked like a longshot for Madson then and still does now.

The 32-year-old missed all of last season following Tommy John surgery.

At least the Angels don’t have to rebuild their bullpen from scratch. They can just go back to what (sometimes) worked for them last year — Ernesto Frieri in the ninth, Kevin Jepsen in the eighth, Scott Downs in the seventh — plus free-agent newcomer Sean Burnett.

Oh, about Burnett: He left camp today with stiffness in his lower back to undergo an MRI.

Stay tuned. The Angels’ bullpen is officially on watch.

Things are heating up in Arizona, literally and figuratively. These links are tepid at best:

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